Whenever I read erotica, the first thing I look for are compelling characters. Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But when one thinks about it, if the characters don’t resonate with the reader, all the sexy dialogue and vivid descriptions won’t matter one bit. A Payment in Flesh by Clara River is a wonderful fantasy that has enough going for it to be an enjoyable read.
River is a first-time author and has published this book through Kindle. Unlike some first-time authors I’ve come across, she has the formatting down pat and made certain that everything is presented in a clean, profession fashion. This may not sound important but how a work reads in digital format, for me at least, can make the reading experience better or worse. River makes certain to start things right.
The book has a great opening line. “Everything had fallen apart” sets the mood immediately that there is a crisis that must be averted. A great first line will help any author get the reader hooked from the word “go”. In this case, the reader immediately wants to know what has fallen apart, how did it happen, and what is the main character going to do about it. It brings the story question up to the forefront of the readers mind, compelling the reader to go forward with the story.
The main character, Holly Henley, must acquire the services of an attorney to help her younger brother out on a drug charge. But being a college student with little financial means, how is she to acquire excellent representation? In this case, the title says it all but leaves much to the imagination. The text on the other hand does not. River makes an excellent go at erotic storytelling, having established her lead and the romantic counterpart fairly quickly. Her writing is crisp and straight-forward. There are small examples of purple prose here and there but nothing to really complain about. I ended up finishing the story in a single sitting and wanted there to be more to this story, which is the best feeling I could have after reading.
There are some quibbles I should mention. While the characters are well-drawn, they are a little thin. Much of this transparency has to do with the length of the work. A longer short story, possibly novella-length, would have provided more fleshed (no pun intended) out characters. The ending also left something to be desired. By having the lawyer Miss Henley paid for sitting idly by during the short trial sequence, I felt that the preceding chapter involving the payment was wasted somewhat. The follow-through on Miss Henley’s decision to give of her body to protect her younger brother’s future doesn’t have the same impact if the brother were represented by the lawyer she acquired.
I would say that this is an excellent first effort by River. The ending aside, the remainder of the book is plenty steamy. I would encourage readers to be fair in their expectations. I would also encourage Ms. River to continue writing. Over time, the little things that I picked out with smooth over and crafting the story will seem second nature.